Israel and Hamas agree Gaza ceasefire

Israel and Hamas reportedly reached a ceasefire agreement late on Thursday, ending more than 24 hours of hostilities, according to diplomatic sources.

Israel’s Channel 10 news said the agreement brokered by Egypt and UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov came into effect at midnight. There were no missiles fired overnight.

Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV channel reported that a ceasefire had taken hold “on the basis of mutual calm”. A senior Israeli official denied an agreement had been reached but told Israel Radio that “quiet would be met with quiet”.

Israeli aircraft bombed more than 150 targets in Gaza on Wednesday night and Thursday after Hamas and other Palestinian groups fired more than 200 missiles into Israel. The IDF spokesman, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said Israel had “ground troops that are ready to deploy. We are reinforcing the southern command and Gaza division.”

Yesterday afternoon, the Israeli Security Cabinet, which included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, IDF chief Lt Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman and head of the National Security Council Meir Ben Shabat, met for four hours.

According to Maariv, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman pushed for a large-scale operation in Gaza. The Cabinet agreed to continue to strike Hamas according to the scale of responses presented by the IDF – what is referred to as a “controlled deterioration”  – which will gradually escalate if Hamas responds in kind.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said at the conclusion of the meeting: “The [Security] Cabinet instructed the IDF to continue acting forcefully against terrorists.”

Israel Hayom  defence analyst Yoav Limor of  said that despite the last 24 hours of escalation, both sides “made sure not to stop playing by the rules and to leave an opening for a ceasefire”. He said that “an examination of the targets shows that both sides made sure to keep to clear limits: Hamas stuck to firing rockets at the Gaza periphery and at Sderot and Netivot… and the IDF tried to avoid, as much as possible, causing any Palestinian fatalities in its strikes”. Limor also warns that “every IDF attack and every Hamas rocket have lethal potential that is liable to give rise to an unplanned deterioration”.